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Gujarat doctors protest: Redressal panel, nearby postings if protest withdrawn, says Nitin Patel

“They are illegally striking and this is not valid... while all services are continuing, I would yet say that we held the meeting so as to ensure that the future of these students are not ruined...," said Deputy chief Minister Nitin Patel.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
August 11, 2021 5:41:01 am
Junior resident doctors continue their strike at SSG Hospital in Vadodara on Tuesday. (Express photo)

After threatening resident doctors on strike with coercive actions, in what appears the first sign of a conditional thaw from the Gujarat government, Deputy chief Minister Nitin Patel on Tuesday assured that if the protest is withdrawn unconditionally, committees will be formed to address the issues and grievances of those genuinely aggrieved. Resident doctors, however, said they will continue their strike on Wednesday, which will mark the eighth day of protest.

While over 2,000 resident doctors, along with medical interns and other junior doctors and those pursuing their post-graduation degree across six government medical colleges in Gujarat have joined the strike, demanding that one day of duty be considered as two days of bond mandated rural tenure, Patel on Tuesday contended that many have “falsely and misguidedly” joined in the protest.

Patel, who also holds the health portfolio, reportedly held nearly a three-and-half-hour long meeting with health department officials, including additional chief secretary Manoj Aggarwal and health commissioner Jai Prakash Shivharre, along with deans and administrators of the six government medical colleges where the resident doctors are protesting.

Addressing media persons at the end of the meeting, while Patel clarified that no medical services have been disrupted and no patient has been affected by the strike, he added, “They are illegally striking and this is not valid… while all services are continuing, I would yet say that we held the meeting so as to ensure that the future of these students are not ruined or they don’t waste a year or their parents who wish to see them as doctors don’t raise any question in future.”

“The faculty and deans have asked me to send a message on the government’s behalf that they withdraw the strike and join in the duties and mark their attendance where they have been deputed (as part of rural tenure),” added Patel.

A contention of the resident doctors on strike has been that their rural postings at primary or community health centres stymie one year of their career as they graduate with specialised degrees and the same cannot be put to any use at primary-level health centres, thus demanding that they be allowed to serve their bond period at tertiary centres or medical institutes.

Addressing the issue, Patel said, “If they withdraw the strike unconditionally, then we can consider in some time their requests. If some centre (of posting) is far, they can request for a nearby centre or want to be near their parents, we can then consider their requests for transfers… I again say, if you unconditionally withdraw your strike, a five-member expert committee will be constituted of your professors and deans and your valid requests and issues will be addressed which will be deemed valid by the health administration… But our first condition is they have to withdraw the strike unconditionally and be present at the place of their postings first.”

“During Covid-19, to encourage our resident doctors to serve in the civil hospitals, the state had stipulated that duty in Covid-19 ward would be counted as double the usual duties (that is one day of Covid-19 duty will be counted as two days of rural tenure as part of their medical bond conditions). In this regard, the last batch of Jamnagar, Rajkot and Bhavnagar medical colleges had their post-graduation exams on time and their results were declared on time,” Patel said.

“Over 98 per cent of these students passed exams and became specialist doctors and are thus not resident doctors anymore. As a result of them being specialist doctors, they were appointed as Class-1 officer at district and taluka-level hospitals where they have to work for a year as part of their bond conditions at a salary of Rs 80,000 per month. For Ahmedabad, Gujarat university conducted the exams a little late and as a result, the results came a little late as well. Due to this, BJ Medical college students received their certificates late by two to three months,” the deputy CM said.

“Approximately, there are 250 such students across the state including 141 from BJ Medical College. Along with them, senior resident doctors, who have to serve fourth year as residency if they wish to be part of the teaching staff starting as assistant professor, as central government and MCI guidelines stipulate. To this effect, Ahmedabad has started the process. For the rest of Gujarat, those who have completed three years of post-graduation and have passed their exams, they have been appointed (at their respective rural tenure locations)… Unfortunately, MBBS students, medical interns, first and second year resident doctors, who have joined in the protest without any reason are jeopardising their career by falsely joining in the issue concerning 141 doctors only…,” said Patel. A senior resident doctor at BJ Medical College said that Patel’s assurances does not address their issues and that the strike will continue as is.

“Usually post-graduate results are out in May in a non-Covid-19 year. This year by and large the results were out only in July. Before the second wave, when we were reluctant to join the duty because we had to prepare for exams, they had issued the government resolution in April this year and had said that one day of Covid-19 duty will be counted as two days of rural tenure. Even after the second wave, we continued serving when mucormycosis patients were in all our wards. Now they say Covid-19 is over and yet the Epidemic Diseases Act has been kept in effect, so basically if there is a third wave, they will again coerce us to join Covid-19 duty. None of our issues or concerns are being addressed and neither were we called for the meeting.”

Meanwhile, following Patel’s address, MP Shah Government Medical College in Jamnagar, through the office of its dean issued a circular on Tuesday stating that medical interns who have joined in the strike supporting resident doctors, “are asked to be present on their duty immediately otherwise their internship period will be extended which should be taken seriously by each interns.” A copy of the circular was also marked to the district collector and district police’s office.

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